By Darryl Alder
Apr 09, 2017

Ours is a Broken Culture

In the last six months, Utah National Parks Council LDS-BSA Relationships committee has hosted more than 500 Stake Presidents and Bishops at Little Philmont, a priesthood conference on Scouting. The subjects focused on how to use Scouting resources to help older young men’s programs work better for the church. For many, the conferences liberate their thinking about using BSA programs for Priests and Teachers.

Steven J Lund, LDS Young Mens General Board Member

I have attended all four of these conferences, but I was taken by Brother Steven J. Lund’s message about our “broken culture.” He has served on the Young Men’s General Board since 2015 and has rich experience as ward Young Men’s president, as an Area Seventy in the Utah South Area, president of the Georgia Atlanta Mission, stake president’s councilor, bishop, ward mission leader, high councilor, elders quorum president, and as a missionary himself. 

He opened his remarks by saying that he is proud to be a Boy Scout and of the Scouting program. He, of course , is “proud of the Aaronic priesthood program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which incorporates everything good about the BSA … I’ve been a part of every program.” 

Then, he said that priesthood lines of authority and keys had caused us to gather to consider our “broken culture.” Then he said,

Our youth are provided with countless opportunities and other good programs to do. They have sports teams that have cultivated a reputation for excellence, and if you try to bring them to mutual with the offer of basketball in the gym on Wednesday nights, then you’re going to lose. We’ve got to have excellent programs as well.
—Steven J. Lund, Member, LDS Young Mens General Board

“Let there be no mistake about it. In your stake and my stake, in your ward and my ward, there is a broken culture. The barbarians have assailed the gates, torn down the walls and have swarmed the grounds with irrepressible force to replace our 14 and 16-year-old program with basketball.” He reflected on his own Scouting saying to his Scoutmaster: “I see what happens when we turn 14. We go off to become [Venturers] and play basketball, and I’m not going to do that. I love Scouting, let me stay in Scouting until I am 18 years.” But true to the plan, he started seeing things differently and by the time he turned 14, he was ready to go off and play basketball like the rest. 

Then, he went on a mission, came back, got married and his ward made him the Venturing leader. He had high hopes for his young men after arranging for an army aviator and a helicopter pilot, who were going to teach his priests ground school so they could be ready for their pilots’ licenses when they turned 16. 

“And the response I got? ‘That’s not what we do in this ward. We play basketball.’

“‘Well, surely you see this opportunity?’ ‘No.’ There was no moving them. I could not have moved the culture that had been inundated onto those kids on my own; this broken culture.”

He asked how many of us had seen the same thing or something like it. Then, he explained that with the men’s mission age moving to 18, “we need to start training them earlier.” This means that mothers, Scout and Priesthood leaders will all have to start acting differently “to change the culture of the Church to preparing them for the MTC as an active part of their lives at 8 years old, and 9, 10, 15, 16, etc. Once they’re 18, most of them will be going out on missions.”

He told of a bishop who said, “Listen, we’ve got a problem in the mission department. I keep sending these kids out from my ward, and they’re coming home early. They’re returning after two weeks, two months in, with this wild look about them. These great kids are coming back broken, and the missionary department has got to do something different.” 

Culture is a conglomeration of things that move together and act together, and how a culture changes is a very difficult thing.

In time management we teach: if you don’t get control of yourself first, identify what’s important to you first, and then take that into your organization, then your organization will suffer because you are suffering as a human being. It starts with the human being.
—Hyrum Smith, BSA Council Officer

He said that we do need to change something, but it is not the missionary department. “We need to change the way we are preparing our young men,” he said and went on:

Let’s not kid ourselves; we’re trying to change a church culture, one where kids have seen their big brothers just kind of go to a lag pattern that they don’t get out of until they land in the MTC. That’s been going on for generations. To try to change that is going to require work. It’s going to require aggressive change if anything different is going to happen.

The second thing … is that it’s going to start with us. If, as a leader, we’re going to change the behavior and culture of our youth, if we’re going to fix the broken culture, then we’ve got to change the way that we view and do things within that culture.

If we’re going to fix the broken culture, it probably necessitates a call to repentance of us, the leaders of this program that have continued to let this go on for generations.

Lund promised that we will “solve this problem, because we’re throwing at it the most irrepressible of all powers, and that’s the priesthood.” He said that each Priesthood leader would go back with an inspired response to the problem of older youth in Scouting. He suggested that with 18 as the mission age, age 17 is the most critical of the 10 years we have boys in Scouting. The next is age 16, but these are some of our “least effective years in terms of influencing our young people,” he said.

During the Boy Scouting years we do pretty well, getting many young men on the trail to Eagle, which he says leads to better missionaries. But, he explained that when they turn 14 to 18, something happens; this is when they need  “the most attentive help and where, perhaps, they get the least.”

To address this, the current Young Mens General Presidency feels leaders need to do three things in response our this broken culture:

  1. Be With Them
  2. Connect Them With Heaven
  3. Let them lead.

View these three segments to see what you can do to help the culture in your ward improve. Is it broken? What will you do?

Steven J Lund | LDS Young Mens General Board Member
excerpts from an address given by him at two Little Philmont Courses in the Fall of 2016 at Mt. Dell Scout Ranch near Mt. Pleasant Ut.

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16 thoughts on “Ours is a Broken Culture

  1. DerrickDerrick

    What an incredible article. It think that Bro. Lund hit the nail on the head. It seems the older boy program gets boiled down to intermediate Boy Scouting or basketball. The Spalding method as I have learned it. Quite frankly, if we are to make a difference in the lives of these young men, we need to care more, act more, and pray more.

  2. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder Post author

    Growing up, I had to make a choice to join the Ensigns and play basketball or stay in Scouts. There was no choice for me. Every team sport in my life had damaged my self esteem, but my Scoutmaster made up for in it in every way. He is still my greatest role model and a true man of God.

  3. AvatarAngela Shelley

    He touches on how there are so many facets to what has created this culture in the church, but I don’t think it’s just church culture. I think it’s a general tendency of society to value sports (or video games for that matter) above all. If you grow up with fathers that watch all the sporting events, that are glued to the TV for March Madness, that can quote stats more easily than the Scout oath and law, and then get pumped up from the games and then go outside to emulate your athletic hero, where does Scouting fit in? Also, Scouting isn’t an every day thing and basketball can be. I watch my nephews immediately grab the ball and run outside as soon as we get together as a family. It requires less effort, less focus, less attention span, less patience….not to mention young men that age are probably looking for more physical outlets and activities. We do need to make a huge push against the culture to promote best over good or even better. Fathers need to care about it and prioritize it, or their sons likely never will.

  4. AvatarKevin

    Amen. Until the adult leadership want to change the program it will be adult ran. Young Men 14-18 can and will lead if given an opportunity. If you want them to participate in a uplifting program let them lead and guide it. Attend Varsity Vision and learn the Varsity program. It puts YM and Adult leaders on the same ball field.

  5. AvatarMaloree Anderson

    There is so much potential in the older boy programs for those who are preparing to go on a mission or even preparing for a career. Each program is purposely designed to build confidence, learn life skills, instill integrity, and teach service. Take advantage of these programs and help guide these future leaders of our world!

  6. AvatarKevin

    Amen. We have so much to offer the YM. They can and will lead if given the opportunity. The Come Follow Me concept fits right into the Varsity program. If leaders will learn and implement Varsity concepts the YM will suprise them. Attend Varsity Vision and learn how and let your Team experience Varsity in action.

  7. AvatarMichelle Carpenter

    I can distinctly remember as a young women talking with the other girls about how all the young men ever did was play basketball. At the time, I didn’t realize there was anything wrong with it while 16, but I can attest it is a real thing. It is sad to recognize when such a great program is set up that people choose not to really use it. But, it also awesome to see that there are many people using the program successfully to change lives.

  8. AvatarRenee

    As a mother of 2 boys I really think this is a time of mixed priorities. As much as I love the idea of physical activities, like basketball and other sports, I truly believe there needs to be more of a variety. Scouting provides so many more options for their futures than anything else, and prepares them for the diversity of trials and obstacles they will face. We need to actively participate in making strong, confident men in their younger years, when it matters most.

  9. AvatarSusan Harmon

    When my boys were between 14-18 years old, one of them had no desire to play basketball. This lead to him not attending Young Men’s except on Sunday. We had a great Scouting program, but it was only done once a month for a campout. Scouting didn’t occur during YM activity nights. Yes…they played basketball…all year long!

    Thankfully, this has changed in our ward with Young Men and Scouting leaders who see the value of Scouting and Mission preparation. As a mother I really appreciate this article. It brings the true purpose and value of Scouting into the Young Men’s program as it was meant to be.

  10. Avatarkevin

    Thanks for your article in the newsletter about older boy programs.
    It is right on target.
    Big shoes to fill to make a cultural change. I am not sure where it will have to start, but I know that is what the Lord expects.
    Let me know where we can help make a change.

  11. AvatarDennis Freeman

    What an insightful and honest address. As a non-LDS brother in Scouting, I know that the best of your leaders have the same vision and concerns. I hope that Leaders at the Ward & Stake level will hear this with both their heads and their hearts. I have sometimes said jokingly that the Varsity name was chosen because that’s when they start playing ball. If I can see this and count the cost from outside the priesthood, surely those called within your church should be able to do the same. My prayers are with LDS parents and Scouting leaders that they will take note and work to make changes.

  12. AvatarDiane Calvert

    Basketball is the problem?! Seriously? Three of my kids play competitive basketball. It has given them confidence, and helps them stay in great physical shape. They have learned teamwork, hard work, commitment, how to be goal-oriented, & how to lift others up. They have learned how to win gracefully & how to pick themselves up after they fail & keep working hard. They are bright, capable leaders in school. My husband has been a bishop. My father was a mission president. Neither has ever mentioned basketball as a problem. Our youth & their addiction to their cell phones, social media, porn, etc are all big items that prohibit youth from being successful missionaries. Kids don’t know how to work hard. Parents are the biggest influence in whether or not a child is successful. I could keep listing obstacles. Basketball would not make my list. I have coached kids in various sports for 20 years & I have seen amazing success stories.

  13. AvatarMark Baxter

    Great address. I would love to have the full talk if available. Maybe someone who knows Br. Lund could ask him for a copy. I agree completely with the loss of an organized program with the older kids. In my 50 years in scouting I think a problem is leaders that will invest time and effort on the kids. Even with active youth leadership, it is a lot of work going on a camp-out or activity. I usually need to take an evening planning and informing, then there is the evening for the regular weekly meeting, leaving work after a half-day on Friday and then all Saturday putting away and cleaning and returning forgotten clothes and equipment. It’s a big time eater being a Scout leader! It’s really easy to bring a basketball. It makes the athletic, more social kids happy. Of course we lose the kids not interested in basketball. I wonder. Would the basketball-playing kids come to mutual each week if all they did was cinematography or leatherwork?

    I love basketball, by the way. Or any sport. But it isn’t “the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood.” I think of my home ward as a boy and the perfect balance they seemed to have found. Basketball was not a part of mutual. Period. It was separate. We practiced once a week an hour and a half before mutual. We had two coaches that had nothing to do with any other programs. Our mutual program was completely separate and inclusive. Some boys had nothing to do with basketball. But they participated fully in mutual activities. I’ve seen a number of great things from sports in the church. I became an Eagle Scout and played in the area championship. I think there is room for both. But scouting is more important. Much more important. That’s why it is the designated “activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood.”

    Thanks for an interesting and stimulating discussion. I concur in the three solutions offered for our broken culture – spend time with them. And including spirituality in scouting along with letting the boys lead are also necessary.


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